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With Roush, Edwards finds all that he needs

| Saturday, Aug. 6, 2011

LONG POND — The phone call from his boss that meant the most to Carl Edwards wasn't a pitch to stay at Roush Fenway Racing.

Jack Roush simply told his star driver — who was about to become the hottest free agent in NASCAR — to make the decision based on what was best for Edwards.

"He said those words to me, and that meant the world," Edwards said Friday at Pocono Raceway. "It meant that I didn't have the pressure to do something for any reason other than what I thought was best."

In the end, Edwards decided what was best was sticking with the only organization he has called home in his Cup career. Edwards signed a multi-year contract extension with RFR this week because he believed the resources, sponsors, crew and car give him the best chance to win.

"Whenever I'd start feeling that pressure start creeping in from the outside, I'd think, 'OK, let's get back to the basics here,' " he said. "Where can I win the most championships• And what would I do if other people's opinions weren't a factor?"

There were plenty of opinions around the garage. Greg Biffle, his teammate, intimated Edwards was leaving. Four-time Cup champion Jeff Gordon said lingering contract negotiations were a distraction to Edwards as he chased his first championship. Edwards enters Sunday's race in first place, a spot he has held in the No. 99 Ford for the majority of the season.

"I still think it got them a little bit behind, but this will allow them to get back on track," Gordon said. "I never considered them a non-threat. Carl's a great driver, and that team's a very good team. There's no doubt those talks and that constant barrage of questions is hard to get past until you get settled."

Edwards, who acted as his own agent, said the end of negotiations was a big relief. He kept details private and insisted money was not an issue. Roush said money was never discussed; Edwards had more pressing questions about how the organization is run and what's ahead.

Roush did the equivalent of opening the books, letting Edwards in on the secrets of every nook of the organization.

"If Carl had made the decision not to come back, I was going to feel really stupid for having shown him all these things," Roush said.

Edwards refused to say how close he was to signing with another team or how many teams showed interest. Once Edwards was back in the fold, Roush started sponsorship discussions for the No. 99, and he said there's no shortage of interested suitors. Roush said the company will be "just fine" running four cars.

Edwards' contract means other free agents can start seriously considering their options for 2012 and beyond. Clint Bowyer (Richard Childress Racing), Juan Pablo Montoya (Earnhardt Ganassi Racing) and Brian Vickers (Red Bull Racing) are the top drivers available.

Vickers needed a seat once Red Bull announced it will leave NASCAR at the end of the season. Bowyer said Friday that he's close to re-signing with RCR.

"Hopefully we'll have that done," he said.

Also affected was Joe Gibbs Racing driver Joey Logano, who likely would have lost his ride in the No. 20 had Edwards come aboard. JGR star Denny Hamlin made it seem like a deal with Edwards was not as close as it appeared. He asked owner Joe Gibbs to tell him when a deal was close.

Gibbs told him, "If it ever got to that point, I would let you know first."

Hamlin never heard a peep.

"So I knew that it never really had gotten very far along, I don't believe," he said. "Whether his intentions really were to leave or not, it's tough to say."

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